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New White House cyber strategy gives US ability to go on aggressive offense

President Donald J. Trump unveils his new national security strategy during a speech in Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2017. (Joyce N. Boghosian/White House)
September 21, 2018
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For the first time in more than a decade, the White House has released a strategy on cyber defense, and it takes U.S. cybersecurity in a bold new direction.

President Trump announced the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, a 40-page report that outlines a framework of global cyber threats and an aggressive U.S. response to such threats, according to a Department of Defense release on Friday.

It is the first cyber strategy released by the White House in 15 years.

“We cannot ignore the costs of malicious cyber activity — economic or otherwise — directed at America’s government, businesses and private individuals,” President Trump said in a statement on Thursday.

The strategy includes aggressive offensives and counter-campaigns as a means of “defending forward to intercept and halt cyber threats.” It details the capabilities of China and Russia, emphasizing the need for a more progressive approach at countering widespread interference activities, instead of retroactively dealing with breaches and disinformation campaigns.

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“Guided by this [strategy], the federal government will be better equipped to protect the American people, the American homeland, and the American way of life,” President Trump added.

“Through it, we will accomplish critical security objectives while supporting American prosperity, preserving peace through strength and advancing American influence. Informed by the strategy’s guidance, federal departments and agencies will more effectively execute their missions to make America cyber secure,” he explained.

The strategy is not only focused on offensive and defensive capabilities to address threats, however. It also seeks to preserve an open and safe internet where Americans can pursue prosperity, freedoms, and access to information.

“The National Cyber Strategy will promote an open and secure internet by encouraging other nations to advance internet freedom and advance a multi-stakeholder model of internet governance,” the DOD statement said.

In addition, it will “promote open, interoperable, reliable and secure communications infrastructure in addition to opening overseas markets for American ingenuity and building international cyber capacity.”

The administration’s ramped up, multi-faceted strategy on cybersecurity shows how cyberattacks have escalated into a major national security challenge. Providing transparency and details of combative capabilities sends a message to potential attackers that the U.S. is prepared to confront these issues, and will not do so lightly.

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It’s also the latest among several of President Trump’s directives on cyber warfare. Last month, President Trump reversed Presidential Policy Directive 20, an Obama-era order that mandated a structured process to be followed before the U.S. carries out cyber actions targeted at foreign entities, The Wall Street Journal had reported.

One administration official called it an “offensive step forward,” as the reversal paved the way for more aggressive responses that better countered cyberattacks.

“I’ll just put it this way: for any nation that is taking cyber activity against the United States, they should expect … that we will respond offensively as well as defensively, and beyond that I’m just not going to go [any further] at this point,” Bolton said, according to an FCW report last month.

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